Drifting

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When you spend the first quarter (plus change ) of your life doing one thing and then – as if from nowhere – that one thing doesn’t make sense anymore, well, you feel like you’re drifting. Losing it. Crazy.

That’s where I stand right now.

I’m looking at the world and it all seems so — big. And I’m looking at people and they all seem so — the same.

The beliefs that I have held and the words I used to read and the sermons I’ve listened to don’t fit this world anymore.

Because I believe in the oneness of humanity and that inspiration can be found in nature and laughter and science and meditation and a child’s eyes.

And I see suffering — I see people that I love suffer — and the words of religion mean little, but the tears of a friend who cares mean much.

And I see women — strong women, leader women — and I want to be in their number. The belief that I am second and that I am to be quiet and submit don’t fit.

I see friends of different religions (or none at all) and I see that their lives are lovely and beautiful and meaningful. And who am I to tell them that their lives aren’t enough and that their beliefs that lead them to do beautiful things in the world aren’t good enough?

So here I stand. Lost. But found at the same time. Emptying out a life full of rules and thoughts and beliefs and trying to look into my soul and see what feels true — what resonates in my core.

Love resonates. Laughter resonates. Freedom resonates. Not freedom with stipulations — but freedom to unfold and really be. Quiet resonates. Colors resonate. Healing lives resonates. Loving children resonates. Intimacy resonates. Family resonates. Soul friends resonate. Art resonates. There I find God, whoever she is.

Fear suffocates. Rules suffocate. Indoctrination suffocates.

Love is a religion. Love is my religion.

To those who I once judged to be less than or lost souls or sinners – I am so deeply sorry. I’m sorry that the judgment I learned spilled out of me and onto you. And I’m sorry for the missed opportunities to see your soul and dance with it.

When Being a Mom Hurts

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I knew how to love before I became a mom. I have always loved my parents and my brother and my grandparents and friends.

I then learned to love in a new way when I became a wife. It’s the same love, only different. Deeper and wider and fuller love. A love that will last a life time.

But the love I learned when I became a mom was a love that hurt.

See, I love my husband deeply and I would give up my very life for him. But the truth is that he is grown and his character is developed and I know him. It is easy for me to look at him and imagine what kind of man he will be in 10 years or 20 years or 40 years. When I love him, I feel peace.

But when I love my kids, sometimes it really hurts. I look at them and I see potential. I look at them and I see talent and beauty and brilliance and joy and all of the wonderful things in life. I see them with the eyes of a mother who feels like she knows what they can accomplish in life, how amazing they can be.

But the truth is I don’t know them yet.

I know who they are now, as 13, 3 and 2 year olds. I see character forming and personality growing. But I don’t know who they will be. And sometimes that is scary.

Sometimes I worry that the mistakes I make now will forever alter the course of their lives. That a hurtful word from a bully will damage their souls. That a failure will break them down and make them give up. That a broken heart will be unable to be mended.

Being a mom is scary. And being a mom hurts.

When my children hurt, I hurt in the deepest places. Say something mean to me and it stings. Say something mean to one of my children and I literally feel an ache in my chest.

I so badly want to throw my arms over them and shout to the world LEAVE THEM ALONE! DON’T YOU KNOW WHO THEY ARE? DON’T YOU SEE HOW AMAZING THEY ARE? DON’T YOU DARE HURT THEM!

And it hurts me because I know that as much as I may try, I can’t protect them. I can’t take away the pain that they’ve already been through, the losses, the trauma, the scars. I can’t protect them from heartbreak or envy.

Their future is theirs. I can influence and hope, but the path they each one of them takes will be their own.

I look forward to the day when I will be old and will look into the eyes of my children and see life shining there. I look forward to seeing the paths that they take and watching them grow.

I dread watching them fail and hurt and feel loss and shame.

The things that they will walk through will form them and shape them. I only hope that as their mother I can influence them with love enough that they will always be able to see the beauty of their own souls.

The Hard Truth About Adoption (Part 2)

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In this series, I will explore some of the truths about adoption that I have discovered as an adoptee and now an adoptive mother of two girls. I recognize that every adoption experience is unique, and this is just an attempt to share my experiences. If you missed part 1 of this series, you can find it here.

Birth Family Relationships can be Complicated

I am very thankful to have a good relationship with one of my daughters’ birth families. We have lost touch with the other one’s family and it absolutely breaks my heart.

Even when everyone is agreeable and gets along, the birth family/adoptive family relationship can get complicated. As an adoptive mother, I have worried that one of my children would decide that they really preferred their other mother over me. I have worried about our birth families judging the way that we parent. I have tried to put on a “perfect” face for them just to prove to them that we really do love their daughters. But of course the truth is that, like any other family, we are flawed at best and really screwed up at worst.

It is important to have boundaries with the birth family, but it is also important that they know that they are loved and welcome. The birth family truly becomes part of your family.

I have made many mistakes with our birth families that I deeply regret. The truth is that when we adopted our oldest I was in my very early 20’s and now parenting an 8 year old. I wish that someone would have given me advice on forming a relationship with her mom, but no one did. Though it is challenging, it is worth it.

Open Adoption is Almost Always the Better Choice

The one situation that I would say closed adoption may be best is if there has been severe abuse at the hands of the birth family. If your child is not safe with them, then of course what kind of relationship you can safely have is going to be challenging.

I was adopted as an infant in a private, closed adoption. Thankfully, I have always felt 100 percent like I was a member of my family and have not had any major identity issues; however, I do wish that open adoption had been the norm in the 80’s. I spent many, many hours as a child dreaming of who my birth mother could be (and always somehow decided that it must be Amy Grant).

Closed adoption creates secrecy where there doesn’t need to be any. As adoptive parents, we need to be open and proud of where our children have come from. We need to affirm their history and answer the questions that they have about their identity. The best way to do this is to maintain some kind of relationship with the birth family. Although it may be challenging, it is almost always best.

The Emptiness of Infertility May Stick Around

When a couple has struggled with infertility for any length of time, a deep and painful wound can be created. And although adoption can be a beautiful way to create a family, it is not necessarily a “cure” for the pain that infertility causes.

I highly recommend that any couple who has struggled with infertility seek counseling before pursuing any kind of adoption. The pain that has been caused by infertility needs to be addressed and dealt with before welcoming an adoptive child into the family.

An adoptive child is not a “replacement” for a biological child and should not be viewed as such. They are not a “second choice.” Again, adoption is a wonderful way to create a family, but the wounds of infertility need to be dealt with first.

I’d love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

When Being a Mom Gets Too Complicated

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I hope I’m not the only mom who has had a near panic attack because I was terrified that I was ruining my kid.

Because I let him watch more TV than is recommended for a kid his age, which may ruin his imagination and turn his brain to mush. Because I gave them two cookies, which may weaken their immune system and open the door to any number of deadly diseases. Because I can’t find two socks that match and what kind of mother sends her kid somewhere with socks that clash? Because they have had a bath in three days. THREE DAYS. Because I can’t afford to send them to the most expensive and prestigious preschool in town and surely they are doomed to a life of failure. Because sometimes I *accidentally* tell them that they are driving me nuts and that they need to go away. Permanently damaging, I’m sure. Because those two cups of juice are sure to lead to obesity and a lack of green food at lunch time is depriving them of essential nutrients and her crying herself to sleep because I just can’t take it anymore and I’m putting him in Luvs because it’s all I can afford but the chemicals may destroy something important down there and WHAT IF I CAN”T HAVE GRANDCHILDREN BECAUSE OF THESE DAMN DIAPERS?

And on and on and on and on the list goes.

NO ONE TOLD ME THIS WAS GOING TO BE SO COMPLICATED!

Every move, every decision a chance for me to completely ruin my kid for life. And I can’t take the stress anymore.

I used to be a really good mom. I used to follow all of the recommendations and Google every little thing and read all of the websites on attachment parenting and what exact foods my children need at every meal and what developmental milestones we should be hitting each month.

And then I gave up.

Because for every site that I looked at, there were two more saying something different. And because he really, really doesn’t like brussels sprouts no matter what I do to them. And because my kids like to get dirty but sometimes after dinner mommy is so done and I can’t live through bathtime so they just need to go to bed.

I love my kids.

I adore them, actually. They make me laugh and they keep me busy and I love playing hide and seek with them and I love sweet hands touching my face and late night talks and giggles and snorts.

I love being a mom.

I want what’s best for the little people that I’ve been given to take care of. I want them to be healthy and smart and strong and happy.

I want them to be happy.

And having a mom who is about to collapse with worry about whether or not a movie is killing her child is not going to make a happy child.

So here’s what I’ve figured out: I do the best I can and I let things slide.

I trust my gut and then I go with it. And I trust that if the human race has been able to survive this far then my children are probably going to turn out just fine. And then I take a deep breath and drop the guilt and just be present with my babies.

Because what they need more than anything else from me is a mom who is there and a mom who treasures and a mom who knows how to chill out.

The Hard Truth About Adoption (Part 1)

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In this series, I will explore some of the truths about adoption that I have discovered as an adoptee and now an adoptive mother of two girls. I recognize that every adoption experience is unique, and this is just an attempt to share my experiences.

Adoption is Beautiful

Of course, I have to say this first. Through adoption I have been given the gift of an amazing family, and as an adult I have gained two precious daughters through adoption. I am so very grateful for adoption.

But the truth is that there are a lot of things about adoption that are hard. There are experiences that mothers and fathers and adoptees are afraid to give voice to, because they don’t want to sound selfish or mean. They don’t want to discourage others from adopting, because they know this first truth: Adoption is Beautiful. And in all of its messiness and hardness and tears there is beauty and there is hope.

So as you read this, I ask that you remember that I am for adoption and I am for every child having a home. I am also for counseling and for being honest about the struggles. Because it is wonderful, but it is also very, very hard.

Adoption is Grief

You cannot separate adoption from grief. The very foundation of adoption is a child losing his first parents. So there will be grief. And it won’t only be the birth family grieving. There will be a child grieving. And to your surprise, you will likely grieve too.

I went into adoption thinking that I was a rescuer. I thought that I would be saving children from monsters and that it would be a joyful experience.

That was until I looked into the eyes of my daughter’s first mother. I looked into her eyes and I saw her soul. I saw the ache for her daughter and the love that was very real. I saw an emptiness there and a brokenness there and a desire for things to be better, but an acceptance of the truth that they wouldn’t be. I heard her speak before a judge and be honest about her own failings. I saw her relinquish rights to her daughter, the one that she loved so deeply and truly.

And in all of her mistakes and pain that she inflicted on my daughter, I grieved for her and I was broken for her. I grieved that she did not have the ability to show the love that I knew she felt so deeply. I grieved that she had never been loved, and therefore didn’t know how to give love. I grieved that my daughter, the one I so desperately wanted to adopt, was going to lose her mother.

I grieved with my daughter. I was broken and humbled by her loss. I had no words to comfort. There was nothing I could say that could even begin to express the depth of the pain that she was feeling.

Even in a private adoption of an infant or an international adoption, there will be grief. As you hold your newborn baby you will know in the deepest and truest places of your heart that somewhere out there are a mother and a father who are broken and crying and who feel like they might suffocate from the pain of it. It will hit you when you don’t expect it and it will be real and raw.

Bonding may not come immediately and it may not come easily

Because so many adoptive families wait so long for their child and spend so much time working towards the goal of holding their child in their arms, they expect that they will have an immediate bond with their child.

How shocking and disturbing it is to hold your child and feel like the babysitter. To look down at the one you have waited for and to feel like a complete stranger. To wonder if you made the right decision because you don’t feel like a mother and here you are holding this stranger child and you don’t know what to do with her.

How strange it can be to go through the motions of parenting and to wonder why you made this decision and will you ever feel that deep love that you assume a parent always feels for their children.

I have talked to my mom about this and she has told me that after they got me (through a closed, private domestic adoption) she walked around for weeks feeling like she was my babysitter and wondering when my real mom was going to pick me up.

Bonding takes time. For some, it may be immediate. For others, it may take days or weeks or months. That doesn’t mean that the adoption is broken or that you made a poor decision. It also doesn’t mean that you will never bond with your child. That deep soul love will come with time as you pour out your life for your little one.

{Stop by Wednesday to read part 2 of this series}

If you have been affected by adoption and have a truth to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

5 Practical and Easy Ideas for Connecting with Your Teen

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The teenage years are hard. Hard for the kids and definitely hard for the parents. Where once stood your little toothless child now stands an almost-adult who at times seems to live in some sort of alternate universe.

It hurts when your teen seems to want to spend all her time alone in her room or when he acts like he wants nothing to do with you.

Here are some practical and easy ways that I have found to connect with my teen.

1. Be Available

You can’t expect your teen to connect with you if you don’t ever make time for him. If your life is so busy that you don’t have time to be at home and just spend time with your teen, you are too busy. Dump something unimportant and be there.

Don’t assume that just because your teen is spending all her time in her room it means that she doesn’t want to spend time with you. Invite her to come out and do something with you. Tell her that you want to spend time with her.

When she does come to you to talk about something, learn to listen with open ears and a shut mouth. Ask before giving advice. Give respect, not nagging.

2. Be Present

You can’t be angry at your teen for not paying attention to you when every time you are together you are constantly on the phone or texting or checking Facebook. PUT IT DOWN and be present with your teen.

3. Ask your Teen to Teach You Something

What is your teen really good at? Find something that you find interesting and ask them to teach you how to do it. If they are constantly posting pictures on Instagram, ask them to show you how it works. If they love soccer, ask them to teach you something about the game. If they are a talented musician, ask them to show you how to do something related to their instrument. Let them be your teacher and be serious in your attempt to learn.

4. Listen to Their Music

Okay. I know I sound crazy now. But music is a window into the soul of your teen. Ask him who his favorite artists are and listen to them. Try to find a song that you can tolerate…or maybe even enjoy. Tell your teen about the song that you like and why you like it.  Listen to it together.

5. Surprise Them

I am not talking about surprising them with expensive gifts. I am talking about bringing them food from their favorite restaurant for lunch at school. They may not want you to stay and eat with them and that is okay. Just surprise them by dropping it off in the front office.

Put a note in his car that he is sure to find that reminds him how special he is to you. Take them on a date to the movies and watch what they want to see. Anything that reminds them that they are loved and precious to you is a good surprise.

Parenting the teen years is hard work. We, as parents, have to learn to respect our children as the almost-adults that they are, but also still give them the love and nurturing that they need and desire.

Treasuring the Days

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So my toddlers and I went grocery shopping this morning. At our local store, they have kid sized baskets for the children to push. So each of my kids had a basket full of food and were running and banging into each other and generally wreaking havoc on our poor store.

It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers most days so I was handling it ok, with constant reminders to “use walking feet” and “don’t bash into each other.” They really weren’t acting that crazy, but by the time we got to the frozen veggies I was pretty much ready to get out of there as quickly as possible.

So I’m standing there trying to keep them from destroying things or each other and trying to pick out some lima beans.

Then this sweet lady walks up and makes a comment about how sweet my kids are. We get to talking and she tells me that all of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren live far away and she doesn’t get to see them often. She tells me that her husband has been gone for 10 years. She says it is hard to cook for just one person. And that sometimes when she is with her church family she likes to remind them how lucky they are to have family to eat dinner with.

 

What a blessing it is to have a husband to eat dinner with. What a blessing it is to have children to eat dinner with.

I’m guilty of dreaming of the day when the kids are grown and they have kids of their own and my husband and I can do what we want. I’m guilty of dreaming of retirement and forgetting that now is a gift and this moment is a treasure.

Someday my house will be clean. I won’t have a Thomas plate in my sink or baby dolls on the couch. I won’t have algebra books on the kitchen table or toilet paper all over the bathroom.

But our house will be empty and quiet and these are the moments I will miss.

I’m so glad for that sweet great grandmother who shared her wisdom with me this morning and who reminded me that this house-bursting-at-the-seams stage of my life is precious and wonderful and that it won’t last long.